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The Elfish Gene, Mark Barrowcliffe

I have somewhat mixed views on this. It's an autobiographical account of growing up and choosing to be a role-player rather than being cool. It's well written, and funny in places, almost endearing in others*. It's the sort of book that you'd probably end up liking if you read a chapter and think to yourself "Yes, that's exactly how it was!". On that basis, it scores points by being British (and not yet another jocks versus nerds American high school tale), but it loses some points with me because the author is quite a few years older than me. (Old enough to have been around and role-playing within a few years of the birth of the hobby). The biggest problem though is the central premise of the book, summed up in the book's subtitle "Coventry, 1976. For a brief, blazing summer, twelve-year-old Mark Barrowcliffe had the chance to be normal. He blew it." While I don't doubt that this is a true recollection of the author's school days, it didn't remind me of mine. In particular, despite what all the stereotypes (and this book) say, RPGs were just as much for the cool boys in my school. And because that is a large part of the author's story, it meant that I couldn't identify with him as much as I was expecting to.

* There are other parts of the book where the author comes across as a sociopathic git. It is possible that the problems he had were not so much because he played D&D but because he was somewhat unlikeable. He's now quite a successful fantasy author, writing as M.D. Lachlan.

The Big Short, Michael Lewis

An account of how and why the credit crunch happened. You'd think this would be dull. Not a bit. I stayed up into the early hours of the morning reading this. Couldn't put it down. Impeccable research and I can't fault his economic analysis. What sets this apart from other books on the subject is the way the author uses vignettes of the key players (individual credit ratings analysts, hedge fund managers, insurance traders etc) to tell the story. Brilliant writing and you'll learn a lot, even if you think you know the full story. (Hmmm, telling a complicated factual story using vignettes of important individuals. I've read another book that used that technique. kargicq, you might be on to something...)

Moneyball, Michael Lewis

Same author. This time the subject is baseball statistics, which again sounds like a difficult subject to make exciting. Once again he does it. The story centres on the Oakland Athletics, a team that managed a lot of success in the 1990s despite having a player salary budget a fraction of the bigger clubs. How? Lewis explains how the Athletics' general manager looked at baseball statistics differently to assemble a team of cheap but effective players. Probably of narrower interest to a non-baseball audience, but still a very well-written book. (The film, starring Brad Pitt, is also very good.) It offered some inspiration to this online marketing consultant, and in fact I gave the spare copy of it that I owned to a participant in an online marketing workshop we ran earlier this year.

Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson

A book about the development of tactics and formations in association football. I suspect that something like 90% of the people who bought this book play Football Manager. And I further suspect that more than half of those read the book and decided to try implementing some of the classic formations of great football teams in their current campaigns. I certainly did. (I had particular success using the 1970 Brazil formation with my Manchester City side, less success with the 1974 Dutch formation.) It's very pleasing to me that perhaps world football's first important formation, the 2-3-5, which lasted for decades in Britain, was invented by Wrexham AFC (see userpic). If you play Football Manager, you will get a lot out of this book. Other football fans, the sort who don't really care about tactics, won't. That simple.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:44 am (UTC)
" It is possible that the problems he had were not so much because he played D&D but because he was somewhat unlikeable."

Oh, the savagery of this review. I can just imagine the poor deflated author. :-D
Aug. 1st, 2013 05:48 am (UTC)
"The Elfish Gene" is a great title. N
Aug. 13th, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
Have you been able to apply the 'Moneyball' tactics to Football Manager? Or are player salaries/transfer fees not a consideration in that game?

I suppose also it would be hard/impossible for a game to take into account the 'human incalculables' such as a really inspiring coach/captain/manager or that effect of swimming a tide of unexpected victory that motivates a further winning streak. Hmm.
Aug. 14th, 2013 08:23 am (UTC)
Oh, player salaries and transfer fees are very much a consideration in Football Manager, as indeed are giving inspiring team talks as manager, having a good leader as captain and unexpected victory leading to a winning streak!

To some extent, if you play as a financially poor club in FM, you're pretty much forced to apply Moneyball tactics. If your club is rich on the other hand, the constraint is less likely to be money and more likely to be persuading players at other teams to come and play for you - easy if you're already a successful team, less easy if say you didn't qualify for the Champions League this season.

In my current campaign, I'm actually playing as three different managers with three different clubs (this is unusual amongst FM players, but it's how I always play). The three clubs are Manchester United (rich), Manchester City (richer) and Wigan Athletic (close to bankruptcy following relegation from the Premier League).

City can afford any player in the world - except that the one or two players who would improve the squad at a particular position don't always want to leave their current club.

United are now (in 2022) well off, but went through several years when debt repayments meant that the truly elite players were out of reach. At that time what I did was use my very good network of scouts to buy promising teenagers. Some of those came good and some didn't, but I've won the Champions League twice with teams featuring lots of young players.

Wigan can barely afford to buy anyone after relegation, but I did have just enough to buy a young Brazilian striker called Santos who had bounced around European clubs but whom my scouts reckoned was brilliant. And it's his goals that have won me promotion back to the Premier League. (This will help the financial situation, but I doubt I'll have much money to strengthen the squad.)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )